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Click for full sized poster

The Rookie

Starring Dennis Quaid and Rachel Griffiths
Screenplay by Mike Rich
Directed by John Lee Hancock

IN SHORT: A fine family flick whose length won't make the li'l kidlets squirm. [Rated G. 129 minutes]

Once upon a time there were two nuns who invested in a piece of dirt in Texas, because a prospector sensed there was oil under it. We guess that the black gold was there, and that dirt field became Big Lake, Texas, because that's the only way to explain this little story's place bookending John Lee Hancock's The Rookie. A sense of the miraculous will come into play later on but there's no real point to it. With the exception of a religious medallion that shows up once, none of the characters show any religious bent. Here alone The Rookie can shave a wee bit of excess running time. There are at least three other wordless passages that can be cut -- we wouldn't complain except that in a [G] rated family flick, these things need to be taken into consideration. That none of the kidlets at our screening were squirming in their seats is a good indicator of how good a family movie this is. A better indication is that, ignoring what the edit block in our brain was telling us, we had a darn good sit in the dark, too.

The son of a career military man who doesn't seem to have had much interest in his kidlet, the only thing that was constant in young Jim Morris' life was his love of baseball. From Groton, Connecticut to Hollywood, Florida to Big Lake, Texas there was always a beautiful field on which to play. Except for Texas. The field wasn't beautiful. The field, actually, hadn't been used in what we estimate to be about sixty years -- again, it has something to do with the nuns. But The Rookie isn't a story about little Jim Morris, it's about big Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid, click for StarTalk), married to the lovely Lorri (Rachel Griffiths) with three kidlets. Morris had his shot at the big time once, drafted for a Milwaukee Brewers farm team. With an 85mph fast ball Morris had potential until a shoulder injury, and four operations, sent him back to Big Lake, teaching Chemistry to all the high school kidlets and coaching the sorry excuse for a baseball team fielded by the school.

The team knows the Coach's history and the Coach needs to motivate his slackers. To put it simply, a deal is struck: If they win the District Championship and make it to the State Finals, Morris will go to an open tryout for any Major League team. To prep the team, he pitches his best ball to the kidlets who, once they learn how to hit his now 75 mph fastball (which is what a radar gun clocked it at), out gun every other team in the league.

The catch is that Morris wasn't tossing a 75mph ball. Ten years after his big break, his arm is stronger and his pitch is even faster than the broken display on the radar gun reported. Jim's pitching a fiery 97 mph ball. Remember that the next time you get stopped for a ticket. With that kind of speed, and the ability to maintain, he does make the cut at an open tryout for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Going into the minors means less cash and no contact with the family but, hey, you know where this based on a true story is going to go. If it wasn't a "based on" you wouldn't believe the story possible.

The strengths of The Rookie lie in the performances of Quaid and Griffiths and the fact that a great baseball story is one of the few places where men don't mind getting all teary-eyed. Your results may vary, but we doubt it. There are very few films made that can fall into that category called "wholesome" yet be so satisfying that they don't bear any of the negative repercussions that that "w" word has come to bring. There's nothing pollyanna-ish here. The kids in the town know they're at a dead end. Griffith's character deals with mounting money problems even as her husband is prepared to ditch his dream. The town itself comes together in a way that will warm your heart.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Rookie, he would have paid . . .


Spend the money.

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